FAYETTEVILLE, NC – Cumberland County Department of Social Services Director Brenda Reid Jackson will retire effective Jan. 1, 2022. Jackson informed the Social Services Board and County Manager Amy Cannon in December 2020 of her intent to retire at the end of 2021. The Social Services Board hired an executive search firm and conducted a national recruitment process for a new director.
The Social Services Board, in consultation with the County Manager and Board of County Commissioners, has hired Heather L. Skeens as the new DSS Director. Skeens will start Dec. 6 and is currently the Guilford County Health and Human Services Director.
Jackson has served as Cumberland County DSS director for the past 13 years and has acquired more than 35 years of experience in human services across North Carolina.
“While this is a bittersweet moment, the time has come. I look forward to the next chapter in my life and exploring the many exciting adventures awaiting me in the near future,” Jackson said. “I plan to complete this calendar year, and I have assured the Social Services Board that I will continue to offer my assistance in any way needed, to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Jackson was named the 2018 Director of the Year by the North Carolina Association of County Directors of Social Services and she received the 2004 Outstanding New Social Services Director award. Under her direction, the agency has won 21 NCACDSS Best Practice Awards for innovative programs.
During her tenure in Cumberland County, DSS attorneys have successfully argued child welfare cases before the State Supreme Court, which had an impact on juvenile laws in North Carolina. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Jackson’s master plan for administering the disaster Food and Nutrition Services program was recognized by the USDA as a national model for serving over 11,000 citizens with disaster food benefits and links to community resources.
“Brenda has served us well and her impact will be felt for several years to come,” said Social Services Board Chairman William Duke. “We are thankful for all she has done for the agency and the citizens of Cumberland County; especially her tireless efforts in reducing the number of children in foster care, increasing staff that serve disabled adults and elderly residents, creative service delivery operations in economic services, and efficient operations of disaster shelters.”
In addition to her duties as DSS Director, Jackson was selected by County Manager Cannon to serve as General Manager for Human Services. As general manager, she performs special assignments such as the County’s Disaster Unmet Needs Coordinator, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Committee Co-Convener, COVID-19 Continuous Operations Team, American Rescue Plan Act Planning Team; and most recently, providing management coverage of the Public Health and Child Support Enforcement departments.
“Brenda Jackson has worked tirelessly for our county’s most vulnerable citizens over the last 13 years, and we are grateful for the impact her service has had across the county as a General Manager,” County Manager Amy Cannon said.
New Director Starts Dec. 6
Skeens has spent 30 years in the Human Services field with most of those years in North Carolina. She has worked for Onslow, Guilford and Cumberland County departments of social services, as well as the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. During her eight years at Cumberland County DSS, she served as the Assistant Director of Children’s Services and the Deputy Director.
As the DSS director, Skeens will now oversee the administration of one of the largest county social services departments in North Carolina. Cumberland County DSS has more than 700 employees and a fiduciary budget of over $600 million. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and her M.B.A. from University of Maryland, College Park.
“We are looking forward to welcoming Heather Skeens back to Cumberland County DSS and to our County Leadership Team,” said County Manager Cannon.